Mount Maunganui: Kane Williamson made an unbeaten 94 and shared a 120-run partnership with Ross Taylor which lifted New Zealand into a strong position at stumps Saturday on the first day of the first cricket Test against Pakistan.
Taylor made 70 and Williamson added a further 89 with Henry Nicholls who was 42 not out at stumps when New Zealand were 222-3.
Williamson came to the crease when only three balls had been bowled and remained for the next 86.3 overs, reshaping the New Zealand innings and changing the course of the first day.
Pakistan had been on top after winning the toss, bowling on a green pitch and after Shaheen Afridi removed New Zealand openers Tom Latham for four and Tom Blundell for five with only 13 runs on the board.
New Zealand faced their first real crisis of the domestic summer. In two Tests against the West Indies they lost the toss and made scores of 519-7 and 460 to set up innings victories and a 2-0 series sweep.
On Saturday, Pakistan’s more disciplined attack made much better use of the toss and conditions than the West Indies. Shaheen brought pace and bounce which generated catches behind the wicket: Latham and Blundell were caught in the slip cordon and Taylor fell to a catch by wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan.
Mohammad Abbas brought immense accuracy and perseverance, conceding only 10 runs from his first 11 overs.
Williamson and Taylor were forced to graft for runs early. Taylor’s half-century from 127 balls was his 34th in Tests but second slowest in terms of balls faced, while Williamson’s, from 154 balls, was his 33rd and his second slowest in New Zealand.
By lunch they had lifted New Zealand to 55-2 and they reached their half-century partnership from 125 balls.
The pitch mellowed in the second session and, while the Pakistan bowlers maintained good line and length, Taylor and Williamson were able to bat more freely. They posted their 10th century partnership in Tests from 249 deliveries, adding to the record of New Zealand’s most prolific Test partnership.
Taylor had special cause to celebrate as he was making a record 438th international appearance across all formats, overtaking Daniel Vetorri’s record of 437. He has form a special alliance with Williamson, with whom he has batted more than 150 times in Tests and scored more than 3,000 runs.
“At the start of my career I was happy just to play one or two games and to have come this far is nice,” Taylor said. “Throughout the whole of the summer the pitches have been a little bit green, this one not as green as the other two. In Tests you expect it to do a little bit for the first couple of hours and it certainly did that.
“We’re happy to get through pretty unscathed: 222-3 after losing those early wickets, we certainly would have taken at the start of the day.”
Even Williamson had his moments. He was dropped at second slip, a hard chance, when he was 18 and again by Haris Sohail when he was 86. But he batted on, unruffled by those moments.
His late partnership with Nicholls gave substance to the New Zealand total and concern to Pakistan. Williamson made a career-best 251 in his most-recent innings in the first Test against the West Indies while Nicholls made 174 in the second Test.
Shaheen finished the day with 3-55 while Abbas had no wicket for 25 runs from 21 overs, 11 of which were maidens.